Hawaii is at the forefront of tackling the problem of renewable energy integration because of the geographic isolations of the islands' electricity grids and the rapid growth of renewable generation. These factors make Hawai'i's electricity grids particularly susceptible to the adverse effects to the intermittant renewable energy sources, but also an ideal test bed for solutions. HNEI is conducting an integrated program including grid system analysis; and technology development and demonstration to advance solutions for Hawaii and for the nation.
HNEI's activities in this focus area began with a series of grid analysis studies conducted for the utilities on Hawaii Island, Maui, and Oahu, in partnership with GE Global Research and Hawaiian Electric Company. The initial work included considerations of the utility distribution systems (see the Oahu grid to the right), energy management systems, frequency control methods, and descriptions of existing renewable energy sources being utilized. This partnership continued with HNEI efforts aimed at solving problems related to power distribution, incorporation of renewable energy resources, and microgrids. One of these efforts led to a whole new category of work for HNEI involving smart grid studies.
More recent HNEI efforts involve the interconnection of renewable energy sources between two or more of the Hawaiian Islands. Such work can include consideration of energy from wind and photovoltaic sources (see the example to the right). These studies examine very high penetration of renewable energy and focus on issues such as reserve strategies, impacts on thermal unit commitment and dispatch, utilization of energy storage, renewable energy curtailment, and other aspects of grid reliability, operations, and costs. Especially important is the attention given to advanced control systems and operational strategies. A critical factor in such a program is the State of Hawaii high-cost investment decision regarding desirability and benefits of the grid interconnections via submarine power cable systems.
HNEI is conducting research, development and demonstration of new technologies to increase renewable energy integration onto the grid and assist in increasing controllability and grid stability.
One effort is focused on demonstrating a smart grid system on a portion of the Maui Electric Company electric grid at Wailea on Maui. The second project includes demonstration of the ability of smart grid inverters to mitigate grid reliability impacts resulting from high penetrations of distributed photovoltaic systems. The final effort is the Japan-U.S. Island Grid Project, seeking to integrate high levels of PV, wind energy, and electric vehicles into an island-based smart grid environment on Maui.